The Government has published an adult social care plan for 2020-21 to support the sector during the winter months and to curb the spread of Covid-19 infections.
The new plan, announced on Friday (18 September), contains support and funding commitments to the sector and new responsibilities placed on providers and various bodies, including CCGs and local authorities.
This includes the provision of free PPE for care homes via the PPE portal until March 2021, to supplement normal stock obtained through usual suppliers, as well as the supply of emergency stock to Local Resilience Forum (LRFs) in case of local Covid spikes.
It also includes £546 million injected through the Infection Control Fund to help care providers pay staff full wages if they are isolating, and to enable staff to work in only one care home, limiting the spread of the infection.
The introduction of the winter social care plan follows widespread calls for the Government to publish its strategy.
A new dashboard will be introduced to specifically measure care home infections, allowing data to be viewed in real time at national, regional and local levels, to help authorities respond to spikes quicker, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
It said it is also working to introduce a designation scheme so that safe premises are available for people leaving hospital who have tested positive for Covid-19 or are awaiting a result.
The department added it is ‘working relentlessly to ensure sufficient appropriate Covid-19 testing capacity’ and will continue to deliver and review social care testing strategy.
A chief nurse for adult social care will also be appointed to represent social care nurses and provide clinical leadership to the workforce.
Responsibilities for CCGs and other organisations
The new winter social care plan states that local authorities (LAs) must put in place their own winter plans, adjusting existing strategies, including how they deal with local outbreaks, for the upcoming period. They must also distribute funding made available through the Infection Control Fund to the sector ‘as quickly as possible’.
‘Every local authority should work with their clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), to ensure they have safe accommodation for people who have been discharged from hospital with a positive or inconclusive Covid-19 test result,’ the DHSC said. The cost of doing so should be covered by discharge funding made available via the NHS, it added.
LAs and CCGs should also work together to jointly commission care packages for those discharged (including commissioning of care home beds), the plan said.
CCGs should also work with LAs to support eligible care homes in their local area to apply for a tablet device as part of the NHSX offer, and continue to support local care providers with remote consultations for people receiving social care, it added.
Care home providers
The winter plan has urged care home providers to also use the additional funding to implement infection prevention and control measures and asked that they implement a policy for limited visits, where necessary, in line with guidance.
The DHSC said it is ‘prepared to strengthen monitoring and regulation by local authorities and the Care Quality Commission (CQC), including asking them to take strong action where improvement is required or staff movement is not being restricted. This can include restricting a service’s operation, issuing warning notices or placing conditions on a provider’s registration.’
‘Giving providers certainty’
Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary, said: ‘We are entering a critical phase in our fight against coronavirus with winter on the horizon. Our priority over the next six months is to make sure we protect those most vulnerable receiving care and our incredibly hard-working workforce by limiting the spread of the virus and preventing a second spike.
‘This winter plan gives providers the certainty they need when it comes to PPE and provides additional support to help care homes to limit the movement of staff, stop the spread of coronavirus and save lives. We will be monitoring the implementation of this carefully and will be swift in our actions to protect residents and colleagues across the country.’
Helen Whately, minister for care, said: ‘Our brilliant care workers have been tirelessly looking after our loved ones throughout this pandemic, and Covid-19 rates have come right down in social care through the summer. With cases beginning to rise now, we must take the strongest possible action to stop the virus and protect people.
‘The creation of the chief nurse for social care is also an important step and will provide leadership to social care nurses and the wider care workforce who often work unseen. The skills and compassion of our care workers must be fully recognised and supported.’